Uganda is a landlocked country astride the Equator, about 800 kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean. It lies on the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria, extending from 1 south to 4 north latitude and 30 to 35 east longitude.
|Population:||Approximately 34 million|
|Total land area:||Land Area: 197,100 km2 (76,101 mi2)|
|Language:||Principal Languages. English, Swahili|
|Kampala Population:||Approx. 1.3 million|
Uganda has several Airlines flying in and out of the country. Kampala’s international airport is Entebbe. Scheduled airlines flying to Entebbe include: Kenya Airways, Air Burundi, Air Rwanda, Air Tanzania, British Airways, SN Brussels, East African Airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air, South African Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Rwandair Express, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Eagle Air and United Arab Airlines both Direct flights from Europe and from other African countries.
Uganda is bordered by Tanzania and Rwanda to the south, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west, South Sudan to the north, and Kenya to the east. With a land surface of 241,139 square kilometers, Uganda occupies most of the Lake Victoria Basin, which was formed by the geological shifts that created the Rift Valley during the Pleistocene era. The Ssese Islands and other small islands in Lake Victoria also lie within Uganda’s borders. Ecologically, Uganda is where the East African Savannah meets the West African jungle.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Uganda has the gift of holiday weather all year around! There are two reasons: one is its location on the Equator and the other is its elevation. Both of these give Uganda the gift of perfect weather.
The majority of the country has a tropical climate which varies according to altitude. The hottest months are from December to February when the temperature reaches 29 degrees Celsius while rainy seasons are from April to May and October to November. The wettest month is traditionally April (although global warming is making this less predictable). Even during the two rainy seasons, the sun is out most of the time and rain often occurs with a most delightful thunderstorm. When it rains, it pours – but soon the sun’s rays have dried up the earth once again.
Temperatures in some parts of the country can be quite cool owing to the country’s high altitude, despite its position on the Equator. The mountain areas become much cooler and the tops of Mount Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains are often covered in snow. Other parts of the country are much warmer.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Uganda has a very strong cultural heritage. It is composed of many regions, each with different cultures. The recent restoration of kingdoms has boosted cultural sites. These include Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro and Toro. Ugandans hail from a diversity of rich cultures and life styles and are remarkably hospitable. Each tribe has its own traditional dance; the Banyankole perform their Kitaguriro dance, the Banyoro have their Runyege, Acholi have the Bwila and Otole dances. The Alur have the Agwal dance and the Bagisu have the Imbalu dance during the biennial circumcision ceremonies.
Culture and traditions are also expressed through a wide range of arts and crafts made from wood, papyrus reeds and local materials. These include blacksmith implements, beaded jewelry, wood carvings and batiks. They can be found all over the city in village bazaars, gift shops, hotels, urban galleries, the National Theatre and Baganda Road craft markets. While on your Uganda travel or safari, consider taking a cultural tour. Community tourism involves local people and your tourist dollars can go a long way in helping lift them from poverty.
Uganda is a fast growing tourist destination ‘Gifted by Nature.’ Political stability, hospitable communities and a high quality range of wildlife products offered at a competitive price, provide an awesome holiday experience.
While the cultural diversity and effortless warmth of Ugandan people are remarked upon by all who visit the country, most itineraries revolve around the protected areas under the direction of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). These are magnificent. They encompass not only the conventional Savannah – mesmerizing tracts of African bush teeming with antelope, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, forest hogs and big cats – but also the snow capped peaks of Africa’s tallest range of mountains, tropical rain forests of mind boggling biodiversity, and atmospheric lakes and rivers heaving with hippos, crocodiles and birds.
As yet untouched by mass tourism, Uganda’s parks are ideal retreats for the discerning eco-tourist. Uganda is the world’s premier primate viewing destination, home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, large populations of chimpanzees and a dazzling variety of monkeys. For bird lovers, Uganda is practically peerless: it has a record of more than 1,060 bird species, 50% of the continent’s species. Each park offers a memorable experience!
POPULAR NATIONAL PARKS & GAME RESERVES
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
This park is home to more than half of the world’s wild mountain gorilla population and was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in December 1994. World Heritage Sites are internationally recognized as natural features of outstanding beauty or scientific value.
The landscape here is rugged, with deep valleys running between steep sided hills and ridges with barely a square kilometer of the park flat. There is a blend of both lowland and montane rainforest with a dense undergrowth of herbs, vines and shrubs (hence the name impenetrable).
This area is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa with the richest faunal community in East Africa. There are estimated to be 120 species of mammals (more than any other national park in Uganda except Queen Elizabeth) and is the only park where chimpanzees and gorillas co-exist together. There are an estimated 360 species of birds, including 23 localized species found only along the Albertine Rift Valley and 14 found nowhere else in Uganda.
The pristine rainforests of this park, one of the largest natural forests in East Africa, are home to approximately 300 species of butterfly (including two endangered species of swallowtails), 200 native tree species and many species of reptiles and amphibians (including one species of frog that may be new to science).
The rugged terrain makes gorilla trekking strenuous work and visitors should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking (good physical condition is a must).
When to visit: Any time, though conditions are more challenging during the rainy season.
Getting there: Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth National Park in the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours), or from Kampala via Mbarara (6-8 hours). Bwindi is 550 km from Kampala. The roads meet at Butogota, 17km from the Buhoma entrance gate.
Distance from Kampala: 550km; estimated transit time: 9 hours
Private chartered flights are also available.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Uganda’s largest park covers over 4000 sq. km, and is one of the most spectacular parks in Africa. Renowned for its scenic beauty and the spectacular falls from which it gets its name, Murchison Falls National Park supports an abundance of flora and fauna to delight the visitor. From rolling savannah and tall grasslands to thick bush and woodlands, the diversity of this park never ceases to amaze visitors and residents alike.
No visit to Murchison Falls would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Falls. They can be viewed from the top where the Nile River narrows from 50 meters to crash through a 7-meter gorge, falling 45 meters to the rocks below. The three-hour cruise to the base of the Falls is also unforgettable.
One can experience the majesty of the Nile while onboard, viewing abundant wildlife along the banks. The more adventurous traveler may want to hike the trails around the Falls, while the avid birdwatcher will want to seek out some of the 424 species identified in the park. Fishermen can test their skills above and below the Falls, waiting patiently for 20-100 kg Nile Perch. Other game fish found in the Nile include Barbel, Electric Catfish and Tiger fish.
Cape buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, Uganda kob, hartebeest and waterbuck are commonly seen on game drives. You may also spot oribi, bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, the shy sitatunga, bush duiker, warthog and bushpig. Large carnivores include lion, leopard and spotted hyena.
Chimpanzees and olive baboons head the list of six species of primates found in the park. Crocodile and hippo will be seen along the banks of the Nile. Some of the more common birds that can be seen include Goliath heron, Egyptian geese, pelican, bee-eaters, kingfishers, hornbill, cormorant, saddle-bill stork and the rare Shoebill stork. A boat cruise to the delta is a highlight for the avid birdwatcher.
Distance from Kampala: 300km; estimated transit time: 5 hours.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
As one of the outstanding treasures of Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park has recently been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO. It is the most popular and easily accessible game reserve in Uganda. The park covers 1978 sq. km and includes a remarkable variety of eco-systems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps. A total of 95 mammal species has been recorded here, the highest for any Ugandan national park. It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lions, the Uganda kob and other antelope species, as well as elephant, buffalo, hippos, baboons and chimpanzee.
A total of 547 confirmed and 15 unconfirmed bird species have been recorded in Queen Elizabeth. This is one of the highest totals in the world and is truly remarkable for such a relatively small reserve. Species recorded include the Shoebill stork, black bee-eater, 11 types of kingfishers and a variety of raptors, including several falcons and eagles. In the crater lakes, spectacular flocks of flamingos gather, creating the image of a moving pink carpet. The launch trip along the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward is a memorable way to view the abundant game in Queen Elizabeth and to see an astounding number of bird species.
In the eastern section of the park is Kyambura Gorge where visitors can climb through a tropical forest in hopes of catching a glimpse of a variety of primates, including chimpanzees.
In the more isolated Ishasha sector of the park, visitors can move through the woodlands in search of tree-climbing lions perched on the boughs of ancient fig trees. To the southeast, travelers can explore newly opened trails in the Maramagambo forest.
Distance from Kampala: 440km; estimated transit time: 6 hours
KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The main attraction of Kibale is the high density of primates that inhabit the rainforest. In fact, this forest supports the highest number of primate species in Uganda and one of the highest primate densities in the world. In addition to a large community of chimpanzees, there are 12 other primate species, including red and black-and-white colobus monkeys, l’Hoest’s, red-tailed, vervet and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, as well as four species of nocturnal primates. The birdlife is prolific, with approximately 400 species recorded for the area. Highlights include the crested guinea fowl, great blue turaco, grey parrot, green-breasted and African pittas, African crowned eagles and black bee-eaters.
Though elephants, buffaloes and giant forest hogs are found here, they live deep in the forest and are only seldom seen. More commonly encountered are bushbucks, duikers and montane sun and giant forest squirrels. This park covers 766 sq. km and runs contiguously with the northern end of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is located just south of Fort Portal.
Distance from Kampala: 360 km; estimated transit time: 5 hours.
LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
The park’s rolling hills and open grassy valleys, interspersed with thickets, woodlands and rich wetlands, are the only place in Uganda where impala still occur and is the best place to see large herds of eland (Africa’s largest antelope). Other antelope species include topi, bushbuck, sitatunga, common duiker, klipspringer, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and Bohor reedbuck. All of your senses come in to play when experiencing the African bush and a walking safari here can be most revealing. It is one of only two Ugandan national parks where Burchell’s zebra still occurs.
In addition to a game drive, many visitors enjoy a boat trip on Lake Mburo, the largest of the five lakes that lie within the park boundaries. The lake and lush fringing vegetation support healthy populations of buffalo, warthog, bushpig and hippopotamus. Birdwatchers will enjoy the more than 250 species of birds found in Lake Mburo, probably the best place in Uganda to see acacia-associated birds. Also of special interest to birders are the swamps, the place to see six so-called papyrus endemics, including the striking papyrus gonolek and the highly localized papyrus yellow warbler (recorded nowhere else in Uganda).
Distance from Kampala: 230km; estimated transit time: 3 hours
PASSPORT AND VISAS
A valid passport is mandatory. Visa requirements sometimes change so check before traveling. A visa to Uganda is issued at Uganda missions abroad and entry points. All countries that require visas for Uganda are also visa prone in Uganda.
Travelers are advised to contact the Uganda representative in their countries or regions to determine whether vaccination is necessary before entry into Uganda. A yellow fever certificate is required if you have been transiting infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in Uganda and it is advisable to take anti-malarial and to utilise mosquito repellents. Malaria Prophylaxis is recommended. It is not recommended to drink tap water. Boil it or buy bottled water from the shops. The equatorial sun can be deceptive even on overcast days. Sun glasses, sun creams and hats are recommended to avoid sunburns.
SECURITY AND SAFETY
Uganda is increasingly developing to one of the top safari holiday destinations in the world. With the improvement of infrastructure and political stability, the tourism industry is soaring to greater heights. The country is very safe both in cities and remote areas. However some common sense precautions should be taken. Do not flaunt your wealth by wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large wads of money openly. Avoid changing money in the streets. Likewise avoid overcrowded streets. Leave your valuables with the hotel for safe keeping. You will come across misleading information on various websites regarding as to how insecure Uganda is for travel. They are however usually outdated and do not reflect the present state of Uganda.
The Banking Sector in Uganda is growing stronger every year with local and foreign owned commercial banks and forex bureaus in Uganda. The Central Bank is Bank of Uganda.
Working hours for most of the Banks are 8:30 to 4:00pm every Monday to Friday while on Saturday they operate half day. Most forex bureaus are open on weekends and some run for 24 hrs.
The Uganda shilling is the legal currency in Uganda. There are no restrictions on money transfer in and out of the country. The Uganda shilling is divided into denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 for paper notes, while coins are in the denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 for coins.
Uganda offers a range of dishes ranging from continental, Italian, Chinese, Ugandan, Indian and more. The finest restaurants and hotels in Uganda are located in Kampala, the capital city, although 4 and 5 star lodges in the National Parks boast excellent cuisine.
No visit to Uganda is complete without trying local food. High in carbohydrates, you will not go hungry! Staples include: matoke (steamed green banana), posho (maize flour porridge), sweet and Irish potatoes, chapati, cassava, yam, rice, goat stew, bean or beef stew, fried chicken and groundnut sauce.